Veterinarian can help with dog’s gland issue : Dr. Dana Koch Correspondent

Dear Dr. Dana,

My dog Rusty has been scooting along the carpet for several days and a friend told me this could be an indication of full anal glands. Would this be a reasonable assessment? I have a veterinary visit scheduled for this week.

Lonnie, Philadelphia

Dear Lonnie,

There are several reasons for a dog to be scooting on the carpet including allergies, internal or skin parasites such as fleas, and anal gland issues as you mentioned. It would be best to have your veterinarian evaluate Rusty to ensure he received the appropriate treatment. In the veterinary field we receive a lot of questions about anal glands.

The anal glands are two small pouches located between the internal and external anal sphincter muscles. They can be found on each side of the anus and empty through short and narrow ducts just inside the anus. Within each anal gland there are sebaceous and apocrine glands that normally secrete an oily, brownish fluid. This fluid often has a strong smell that many describe as a fishy odor, and is expelled routinely when a dog defecates.

If the anal glands are not being emptied on a regular basis, this can cause the fluid to thicken thus making it harder to excrete. This can then lead to impacted and inflamed anal glands. Impaction is very uncomfortable for animals and increases the changes of infection. In severe cases, impacted anal glands can abscess and rupture resulting in a draining tract to the skin surface. Abscessed anal glands often require antibiotics and in certain extreme cases, surgical repair or drain placement.

They are several educated theories surrounding the reason for anal glands. It is commonly believed that excreting fluid from these glands acts as a scent marker. Additionally, some believe that the anal gland material assists in lubricating that stool and making passage through the rectum easier. In certain situations when an animal is very stressed or upset, he or she can express their anal glands on their own without defecating.

The most common questions we receive in regard to anal glands is: Why do they need to be expressed or why is this an ongoing issue for my dog?

These are difficult questions to answer because often veterinarians cannot attribute ongoing anal gland issues to a specific cause. We often look to evaluate several factors including breed of dog, age, diet and concurrent health issues. Certain animals are born with very narrow ducts that do not drain the anal glands as effectively as they should which leads to a risk of impaction or infection. Certain breeds of dog more regularly experiencing anal gland issues include toy poodles, Chihuahuas, beagles and basset hounds.

Diet may contribute to decreased fiber or an allergic response in the body resulting in inflamed or full anal glands. Those animals with a sensitive gastrointestinal tract often experience semi-formed or loose stool which prevents the anal glands from fully expressing compared to firm, bulky stool. Additionally, studies have shown that dogs with hypothyroidism and obesity are more prone to experiencing issues with their anal glands.

The majority of animals with an anal gland issue will scoot on the floor in an attempt to empty the glands or alert you to the problem. They may also lick at the skin below their tail causing red and inflamed tissue in that region. A pet owner often will observe some straining to defecate or blood and mucus in the stool.

When facing a concern about an anal gland issue, a veterinarian will recommend examination and palpation of the glands. This will be completed in the rectum so the veterinarian can feel the glands and express any material if necessary in order to determine whether infection is present. Antibiotics will often be prescribed if an anal gland infection is diagnosed. To prevent future issues with the anal glands your veterinarian may discuss more routine checks or expressions (if necessary), diet or supplement changes. Depending on the animal a probiotic or increased fiber diet will help alleviate long term issues with the anal glands

Thank you for question and I hope that Rusty will feel better after his visit to the veterinary office.

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